The province has released four inmates from the Okanagan Correctional Centre (OCC) prior to the end of their sentence after an inmate tested positive for COVID-19 on April 1.
Early releases are provided by granting a temporary absence, BC Corrections stated in response to questions from the Osoyoos Times.
“This does not mean a sentence has ended and/or is suspended, instead the sentence runs concurrently to the temporary absence. BC Corrections may rescind a temporary absence if/when warranted,” BC Corrections stated.
The province started conducting early release assessments in March, considering criminal history, sentence length, offence type, and any other relevant information about inmates, including risk to public safety, and available community support upon release.
Since then, according to data provided by BC Corrections, three sentenced inmates, and one inmate serving an intermittent sentence (colloquially known as “weekend jail”) have been released early from OCC due to COVID-19 concerns from the period of March 1 to April 1.
As of April 2 there are 265 inmates still in custody at OCC. Across the province’s 10 correctional facilities, a total of eight sentenced inmates have been granted early release, while a total of 87 inmates serving intermittent sentences have been granted early release.
The province does not have “discretion to proactively release people who are remanded in custody pending outstanding court matters. This discretion rests with the courts.”
The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) is responsible for immigration holds and BC Corrections does not have the authority to proactively release these individuals (BC Corrections holds individuals on behalf of the CBSA who may have outstanding matters related to their legal status in Canada; for example, a deportation order).
Interior Health stated this week an investigation at OCC is underway and the public is at low risk to COVID-19 exposure from the community outbreak at OCC.
“Interior Health’s Medical Health Officer (MHO) is confident that the risk of exposure to the general public is low,” Interior Health stated, noting the patient is receiving care “with necessary infection control precautions in place.”
Individuals in custody who may have been exposed are all being monitored and there are currently no signs of illness beyond the first patient. An investigation into any contacts or potential sources is underway.